Vol. 4 Num 168 Wed. November 12, 2003  

One last try

When Bangladesh captain Khaled Mahmud trudged back to the dressing room as the last man after attending the training yesterday afternoon it gave someone the feeling that he was trying to disguise himself.

He was carrying two bats in both hands and wearing all the protective armour nowadays batsmen use to avoid injury. But he knows that no amount of protection can shied him from the growing discontent of the home crowd, who have been constantly on his back ever since the defeat in the second Test against England in Chittagong.

Life has become unbearable for the diminutive all-rounder as the hate campaign followed him all the way to the capital in the second limited-overs match on Monday.

But a day before the third and final match and away from the maddening crowd Mahmud was very relaxed and his body language showed it. Removing his helmet the 32-year-old smiled as if nothing was wrong before baring his soul.

"The last few days have been hell for me. I agree I have had some bitter experiences with the crowd but nothing like this. Right from the toss to the end of the game they did not leave me alone. It's really painful," said Mahmud while talking to reporters at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.

Known as a fighter he admitted that neither his bat nor ball was talking since coming back from Pakistan. But he felt that he alone should not be made the scapegoat for the team's poor showing in the home series against Michael Vaughan's men.

"It is amazing that I've won the toss every time in the series. But the toss luck had done little good for the team and me. I have no grudge against the cricket fans since I know how they feel. But the weight of expectation is putting a lot of pressure on me," said Mahmud ahead of what will probably be his last series as captain.

Like Mahmud coach Dav Whatmore was also finding it hard to conceal his emotions after two heavy defeats.

"I understand what the crowd is feeling like because I too am bleeding inside my heart. Look these supporters are full of expectations after what we have done in Pakistan. Maybe the same cricketers are not able to deliver at the moment but it's not for lack of trying," Whatmore told reporters.

The 49-year-old admitted that the crowd pressure was telling on his boys' minds.

"Playing in front of home crowd means pressure. But when you are not playing good cricket it effects you even more," he said adding that he was not making any excuses.

Whatmore also hinted at a chance in the team for today's day-night match, but he did not elaborate.

Though the series is lost the training goes on. And obviously Whatmore's boys were concentrating on how to tackle the short-pitch bowling line of attack successfully adopted by the England bowlers in the second Test and the first two one-day internationals.

"We have practised pull and hook shots because none of our batsmen have done it successfully. Okay, we may have started it late but it's never too late to learn something. It's not that our batsmen can't play those shots but most of them were shy to do so," said Mahmud.

And the Bangladesh captain agreed that there was no point of occupying the crease if the runs did not flow.

"The only way to push our opponents is to put some runs on the board. Maybe we don't have pinch-hitters to take advantage of the first ten overs. But if we can preserve wickets then runs will come, he said.

Asked if they had worked out any plan to contain the power hitting of England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who took both matches away by storm, Mahmud could only laugh and said that was there any point.

"For a destructive batsman like him you can only plan when you have a score to defend. We have scored bellow 150 in both matches and that left us with only one option that is to attack. In dealing with Flintoff attack was never a part of the plan. Beside, the task was made more difficult if you give a batsman like him a chance."

WHAT'S NEW? Bangladesh batsmen yesterday spent all their time practising pull-shots at the Bangabandhu National Stadium. PHOTO: STAR